I like my 'Team for the Ages' mix here at this versatile position — some new, some old, and three truly unique talents from the past several generations of football.
I always held him in regard as one of the best off-the-ball linebackers of any generation. Brooks was so good at covering large tracts of land in short order, able to sniff out screens and draws as easily as he was able to drop in coverage, occasionally blitz and knock out ballcarriers despite lacking great size.
He was the perfect glue in the Buccaneers’ zone defense and an unbelievably savvy and reliable performer — zero missed games over his 14 incredible seasons. The Tampa-2 defense doesn't work without players such as Brooks, who actually defined a position at the "Will" spot for a generation, and he easily could have dominated at the other two LB spots, too.
All Taylor did was revolutionize defensive play in the NFL. The Giants knew that the 49ers and Redskins, among others, were making the NFL a pass-heavier league and that taking down (or terrorizing) quarterbacks was the name of the game.
Taylor was a ferocious rusher who only was held back by his own personal demons. Imagine what he could have had without off-the-field issues that plagued him for years. As it is, he was as devastating a defender as there ever was.
One of the most dominant games I ever watched was his 1988 late-season performance against the New Orleans Saints — the one team that passed on him in the 1981 NFL draft — racking up 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, seven tackles and a batted pass in the Giants’ 13-12 win … all with torn ligaments and a deltoid muscle in his shoulder.
It was one of the gutsiest performances you’ll ever see. And a snapshot of the greatest pass rusher in his prime.
Shockingly underrated by today’s measure, the 6-foot-7 “Mad Stork” was a unique defender in the history of the game. Like Brooks, he never missed a game over his career spanning nine fewer games but two more seasons, from 1969 to 1983.
He’s the only defender in NFL history to compile this amazing trio of stats — 26 interceptions 25 blocked field goals or PATs, 16 fumble recoveries (including two seasons with four apiece) and four safeties — that shows just how impactful he was in so many departments.
Sacks were not an official NFL statistic until his penultimate season in 1982, when Hendricks was 35 years old, but it just so happened that it was the strike-shortened year with only nine regular-season contests. Hendricks racked up seven that year, one of only 23 men that age or older to have that many in a season (and the rest of them required 11 or more games to get to that number).
A controversial choice over some other well-deserving options, but I am sticking with the Stork here.